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Times Online: BP faces fresh attack in Russia

January 19, 2007
Steve Hawkes
 
Russian authorities are planning an assault on BP in a move that will trigger fresh concerns about the company’s future in the country.
 
Gazprom will eventually win back control of the field for Mother Russia. The key question is what happens then.

 
The Natural Resources Ministry’s environmental agency has revealed that it is preparing to investigate the giant Kovykta gas field run by BP’s joint venture with TNK.

Oleg Mitvol, the agency’s deputy-head, said that documents would be submitted by the end of January with a full check launched “possibly in February or March”.

Inspectors claim the field – which holds enough gas to fill the world’s needs for eight months – has been underdeveloped by TNK-BP and will not hit the target production of nine billion cubic metres this year.

The move is another blow to BP as it battles to recover its reputation after the damaging Baker report into the fatal Texas City refinery blast.

Just four months ago, the Kremlin gave warning that TNK-BP’s licence at Kovykta may be revoked after alleged environmental violations.

Analysts said that the new threat signalled that state-controlled giant Gazprom was mounting a fresh campaign to “persuade” TNK-BP to hand over control of the field.

The Kremlin wants Russia’s oil and gas projects in Russian hands and Gazprom has been pushing for a share of Kovykta since BP joined forces with TNK four years ago – a deal that was personally approved by President Putin.

Last month, Gazprom succeeded in wrestling a majority stake in the Sakhalin-2 offshore oil and gas field from Shell.
 
One analyst told The Times that it was only “a matter of time” before Gazprom took a majority share in Kovykta. “Sentiment could be affected as the Russians bang on the table and threaten BP with environmental this and environmental that, but it’s too early to say what the real repercussions will be,” he said.
 
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,9072-2555702,00.html

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